Playing time on the court, you have to earn it.
Nothing is a given. Nothing. And the 17 players on the No. 4 Penn State women’s volleyball team (10-1, 0-0 Big Ten) understand that.
They know they are all fighting for a chance to play and competing in practice is essential. Even a true freshman could take a spot from a seasoned veteran if she earns it.
“In practice, we are always competing. Freshmen have just as big of an opportunity to play as seniors, and it’s all about how you perform in practice and you show coach [Russ Rose] that he can depend on you,” junior outside hitter Deja McClendon said. “I think we all know that and coach makes it very clear, so it’s all about how much of a drive that you have.”
A prime example of this is true freshman Megan Courtney. The outside hitter was a four-year letterwinner at Archbishop Alter High School in Kettering, Ohio, and has already made a splash this season. She has played in all 11 matches –– starting in all but one –– and has seen action in 32 of the 37 sets the Lions have played.
Her 64 kills and 62 digs rank fourth on the squad in both categories. She has also compiled a .316 hitting percentage and has recorded six service aces.
Courtney is just one of the underclassmen that has seen significant playing time this season. Of the 11, five have played in 32 sets of more. The team believes the ability for anyone to step into a match and play is a big positive.
“A team’s a team. You’re only as good as your worst player, and just knowing that everyone can go on in and really make a difference and can really impact things, it’s just incredible,” redshirt sophomore middle hitter Erica Denney said. “You don’t find that very often, and that’s I think what makes this team so special.”
Even if players are not seeing significant match time, they are still contributing in their own ways. Senior defensive specialist Kristin Carpenter will often check into matches to serve for McClendon.
“I think it’s a really good thing,” junior right side Ariel Scott said. “We have a lot of good servers on our team, so it gives people a chance to go in and make a good play defensively and help the team out in that way.”
With the conference opener against Nebraska at 8 on Wednesday night, the Lions will look to continue to use their depth as an advantage. They will look to have everyone put in a helping hand as they prepare to embark through the 20-game conference schedule.
“[It’s] really important, especially with Big Ten coming up,” Scott said. “These games are going to be tiring. We’re going to have two games in one weekend. It’s going to be really important that everyone is contributing.”